Lyla Campbell

It's generally a good idea to give your eyes and brain a rest once finished with the first draft of a manuscript. After blocking out the existence of my NaNoWriMo novel for 6 weeks now, this coming weekend is the one I've designated to finally pick it back up again.

Editing, is easy to get lost in. If you don't have a good project management plan, you can loose sight of the forest because of the trees. In order to psych myself up for this behemoth task, I gave myself a little refresher course in the basics of where in the world I should beginning. I started by listing what I know. These are snippets from things I learned in grade school, a writing class I took a while ago, and first hand in the trenches:

  • During the first editing pass, read for content. During the second editing pass, read line by line for style.

  • Read the story to yourself out loud (something I like to do during the first editing pass). What looks good on the page may not sound good to your ear. Verbalizing your prose will help you identify any awkward text.

  • When editing by hand (this is something I like to do during the second editing pass) print a copy of your work double spaced. That way you'll have room for corrections and notes in between each line

  • Something we called ratiocinating in 7th grade. Count up all the occurrences of the following "am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been" and contractions that include these (i.e. I'm, you're, etc.). Then go through your manuscript and reduce these occurrences by half. This will help you avoid passive sentences. Back in school, we were told it will make for a stronger "voice".

  • If a scene/action/sentence doesn't in some way lent some value to the story, get rid of it. Superfluous = Bad.

  • Try to get rid of excessive occurrences of the word "said" when used to introduce dialogue.

On Friday, with my manuscript and these basic points of editing, I'm going to take a deep cleansing breath and begin the first editing pass.

Editing can be a "black box" of sorts. You don't exactly know what you will need until you get into it. So, how do you like to edit? What tips and tricks do you apply to develop a masterpiece out of the block of marble that is your manuscript?

4 Responses
  1. Uninvoked Says:

    I've got some changes I need to make, as suggested by my readers. I'm dreading working on it. Once I start, I just can't stop--and usually something interupts. I'm going to work on it tomorrow though, like it or not.

  2. These are great editing techniques. I agree with you, don't try doing all the editing in one pass, make many passes through the manuscript. I have grown to dislike some of my stories becuase I've read them so much.

  3. Completely disagree about using 'said.' It clearly marks dialogue and is almost invisible to the reader. It doesn't jar the way a fancier word might.

    Don't use it every line, unless more than two people are speaking, but don't go more than two paragraphs without using it, either.

    Use 'said' with pride and use other descriptive words (muttered, murmured, etc.) sparingly for stronger dialogue.

  4. Kate,

    I agree that 'said' shouldn't be banned completly. Often times in my first drafts (especially the NaNoWriMo ones) to keep my momentum going I use the word said when I can't think of anything better. It usually results in an excessive use of the word.

    I've updated my post to get rid of the ambiguity of that editing point.

    Thanks for the comments and discussion!

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